It’s Okay To Grieve


In my post called Singles and the Church: Why it Sucks To Be Unintentionally Overlooked, I talked about the idea of disenfranchised grief: a grief in which nothing concrete happened to you, but the desires of your heart didn’t come to pass. It’s what didn’t happen that you are grieving over, and that doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. But it is a true, deep loss.

I wanted to explore this idea more because so many readers commented on how much they suffer from disenfranchised loss.

I understand this kind of grief because I have been struggling a lot this month. The crazy thing is, the situation that I just went through was a simple “I’m-going-to-say-no-to-romance- even- though -you’re- wonderful” scenario that I have lived through one too many times to stay sane.

The situation itself shouldn’t be as heartbreaking as it is. And yet, I have struggled with deep disappointment. I have not even had any clue how to get the sadness out of my system. And my friends Ben and Jerry are stalking me. (Just had to throw something light in there!)

I realize now that some of this is due to the particular situation, but a lot of it is due to disenfranchised loss. I am not just grieving this friendship, I am grieving the fact that there are few good men in their thirties and it might be hard to have that chance again. I am grieving the thought of not being touched and held by someone. I am grieving the fact that I need to go back to thinking about adopting alone.

I am grieving having to go back to eharmony first dates. I would seriously rather have a root canal.

But most of all, I am grieving not having a family. Not having anyone call me “my wife” or “mommy.” It has been too much for me to handle. At the risk of sounding horribly sorry for myself, I am barren. Women who are married who are infertile, they know how I feel, and that means a lot to me. But in all honesty, people regard married women’s infertility as a much deeper loss than my barrenness as a single woman. And yet, it is very very similar. I not only have no children, I don’t have a husband either. So the grief should be looked on as something very deep and very painful. But it just isn’t.

I think part of the problem is that people think it’s kind of your choice that you have no family. That if you did things a certain way you would have a family. “You just need to be online dating.” “You just need to be less picky.” “You’re too strong of a woman and you scare off men.” And one that I heard on a thread about this topic the other day “You just need to lose more weight.”

As if we chose this lifestyle for ourselves. That’s just not true. We have worked to change this situation, and yet it hasn’t happened. It’s nothing that we did wrong, and we need to believe that.

According to Melony Notkin’s article on this subject, 18% of American women between the ages of 40 and 44 are childless. About half of this group don’t want children. The other half suffer from either biological or circumstantial barrenness.

This, my friends, is tragic.

Single people out there, people longing to get married and have children, I want to look you in the eyes and say this to you. You have every right to grieve. Even though nothing concrete has happened to you, yours is a deep, deep loss.

Married people out there, church at large, it would mean the world to us if you would acknowledge this as a loss. If you would talk about it from the pulpit. If you would invite us over for lunch. If you would tell us it’s ok to grieve and hold us.

There is a flip side to this predicament, something that we need to address as well. I learned the hard way in this situation that if I project all of that fear, all of that sadness, all of that disenfranchised grief, onto someone that I could potentially have a romantic relationship with, all I will do is try to control them so that I can get what I so deeply long for. I will not be patient and let them decide on their own. I will try to control things so that person will bring me my dreams. It is not healthy.

That much pressure is absolutely not fair on them. It can ruin potential relationships and all others as well. Expectations are premeditated resentments.

My friends said to me the other day “your mind is like a bank account. Every time you think of someone, especially of that person giving you everything you’ve dreamed of,  you put another dollar in the bank account. So if you end up losing that account, you have a lot to lose.”

My bank account is empty, and it hurts so much.

I think what we need to learn is that we should  let ourselves mourn deeply, we should acknowledge our disenfranchised loss, but we need to direct that mourning at God, not on anyone else, including ourselves. God can take it. Another human being can’t. We can’t.

So go ahead. Grieve. I give you permission right now.

If you want to, walk away from this blog post, call a friend, tell them you need their support because you are mourning, and then cry your guts out. You have every right to do it. If you want to, you can even get mad at God.  He won’t be angry back. Then, let him hold you.

Because in the end, what else can we do but bring our frustrations to the Lord and then remember his love? To cry and cry and then to release things that we can’t control?

I will try hard to do that now. And I hope you do too.

41 thoughts on “It’s Okay To Grieve

  1. I totally and 110% agree with this post. There is something to be said for being single. I’m not even that old yet and I feel like this too.

  2. Kate, this is so perfect. Just learned a good friend got married (saw it online – he didn’t even tell me). I lost the friendship, suddenly, because there couldn’t be more between us, and I guess it’s easier for him to just not communicate with me. It’s painful to lose a friend, but then all of the additional grief that it brought up has been overwhelming. Even without a specific subject, the grief of singleness isn’t a finite “I’m sad about this one little part of my life” thing but comes in waves, full force all of a sudden over a thankful Facebook post about how wonderful someone’s partner is and all the reasons why. I read a quote recently that said suffering is only suffering if it’s in silence, and pain in public is communion, something like that. Which I don’t think it totally true, because it’s still painful, but maybe it’s pain AND communion. Thanks for sharing this, sister!

  3. Oh Dear Kate, I wish that I had met you when I lived in Denver. I would love to get together with you right now to share some Ben & Jerry’s and cry on each other’s shoulders. And laugh. and lament without worrying that someone is going to give us a cliche, or tell us we’re better off single, or tell us the “if you’d just” lines that you listed. I have never met you, but I love you. I think we could be friends. I’m praying for you. One of my favorite doctors when I lived in Denver saw me through a family tragedy, and told me that sometimes, it’s healthy to have a good “snot-sucking cry”… go to that. And then let your Lord hold you. Blessings.

  4. What a beautiful post and so very very true. You are a beautifully gifted writer. I have two darling puppies who have literally been my “family” during my seasons of grieving. Just holding a warm furry bundle calms my heart. You will be in my prayers during this season of grief.

  5. ah Kate, great post and thankx for writing and sharing and baring your soul because i know you are not alone and i grieve for some of my friends who are stunningly amazing people and yet i know they will resonate with this post and it just does suck – you know i resonate cos of having got married so relatively late in life [35] but yet here i am in that place, with that stuff… so all i can say is grieve ahead and i hope those friends of yours who are in closer proximity will take heed and call and hug and give permission and allow you to be and feel that which you do and must… strength in Him!
    love brett fish

  6. Bravo! Thank you for affirming and putting into words what I and others I know are living out daily. It is great to put a name to my grief and to know someone out there gets it! Blessings dear sister in Christ and thank you for sharing your heart and taking us to the dark places with you!

  7. YES!!!!

    Especially the part about worrying about dumping all of your build up of need on someone and crushing them with it. Or at least making them run for the hills!

    Having had a full on meltdown last night because of some bad news recieved, and I don’t have a partner of my own to comfort me and crying in my room in the dark because my housemate was dealing with a grumpy toddler. I don’t want to bother my friends with my hurts. They have partners of their own to deal with. They don’t need my mess as well.
    Except my housemate showed me this isn’t correct. By texting my from the front room until she convinced me to come downstairs and talk about it, and then patiently and persistently deconstructing the lies I’ve been telling myself. (While still dealing with a grumpy overly-emotional toddler… At the same time…)

    God has blessed me with fantastic friends. This doesn’t in any way replace the loss I feel because of something I do not have. But at least I know I’m part of a family, part of their families. Their children will grow up with me as their Uncle, and when (or if) I have a wife and (or if) children of my own, those friend will be their family as well.

    Until then I remain anxious and impatient. Sometimes to the point of being overwhelmed.

  8. You know, on the way home from work today I happened to catch “Jonnie and Friends” (however you spell her name, I don’t normally listen to the show) on the Christian radio station. She was talking about a woman who had made the general plans for her life, marriage and kids, and found out she was infertile. The story went on about she and her husband went through all sorts of trials trying to get pregnant, and then trying to adopt, and by God’s grace someone gifted them the money to cover adoption fees, etc. and how God’s plans are better than ours, etc. and now they have 2 wonderful adopted kids.

    All I could think about was, you know, even if she never got her own kids, the woman in the story still had a husband. That was half her childhood wish.

    Seriously. I don’t make enough money at my job to buy a house. Or frankly, even a decent apartment. But if I had someone else to share the bills with… I tried not to go there. Like you said, too much pressure to project on someone else.

    I just kept thinking about why don’t we ever hear (Christian radio, in this case) talking about singles. Because if anyone needs the support of the church, it’s the ones who are alone. A sort of Focus on the Singles to counterbalance all the Family shows… (and without the “be patient and God will give you a spouse” bit. Some people won’t ever marry, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.)

    I would really love to have some sort of a “singles support group”. Not in the “let’s whine and be pathetic and try to set each other up on dates like everyone seems to think we should” sense, but more like “who wants to go get coffee and chat about your day? Or see a movie or something? In a setting where you’re not the third wheel to a couple? Or just eat food as a group?”

    Problem is, I don’t know enough single people to start one.

  9. I can tell from the tone of you last two blogs how deeply this has affected you. I know how rejection and/or losing that friendship can affect one, but also how losing all those thoughts of potentials is lost, wiped away. I do this thing when I meet a potential (that’s what I call females in my mind that I like and would consider dating) I call them that because I see all the happy dates, happy times, maybe close embraces, late night talks, marriage, even children. It all kinda flashes. Sometimes it happens so quick. Then it might be taken away because we wouldn’t fit, I get rejected, or I notice a ring on her finger after a second and know she is married (and glad I didn’t ask her out! ha!). Then it fades into the background of my mind once again. It would be nice one day to meet someone and not have it fade but grow.

    Blessings to you during this time Kate!

      • Indeed! And it also feels kind of automatic. I dont often feel like I am intentionally doing it. Sometimes just a glance of a certain females face or smile sets off the interest, the thoughts of maybes…. Well, at least now you know you are totally not alone in this! 😉

  10. There’s no way around it. It’s just hard. There’s nothing that can be said to make it any easier or less painful. It’s just hard. I keep on living life the best I know how, trying to embrace my circumstances and make the most of it, but I feel like most of my life is trying to stay distracted from the lonliness and all of it is living on the cusp of “maybe today will be the day things change, maybe he will be the one, maybe this is where I’ll finally meet somebody, …” but so far every day has just been another day that leaves wanting and wondering if it ever will change. Is today the day I need to resolve to a lifetime of planning for life on my own? It hurts too much to think about that, so I move on to another distraction.

  11. I am in a season where I literally wake up every morning and feel this heavy barren feeling of not having this husband and children, and not knowing if that will ever happen. Being 39… it harder every year to even meet men. Obviously… even harder knowing that adoption is most likely my option if I do marry. and if I don’t marry, financially will I ever even be able to adopt. And even as I type this, I get super emotional. Thankful for friends walking with me, who allow me the moments of grieving, balanced with the truths that counteract the lies I tell myself in this. But this post… screamed at me in so many good ways, and reminds me I’m not alone. thank you.

  12. I am also 39 and grieving. The worst for me is feeling so invisible. I feel invisible to single men who don’t notice me, invisible to friends and family who don’t understand the depth of my grief, and invisible to my pastors who probably assume I chose to be single. While I own my home, I continue to live with roommates because I like the company. Yet, I worry that someday young women in their 20s and 30s won’t want to live with an old lady in her 40s.

    And I worry about taking on the burden of elderly parents and a mentally ill sibling — I can’t care for them all by myself. I don’t know how that’s all going to work, and I hesitate to trust God. It is just too hard to believe that he has my good in mind when he’s never allowed me a husband and family.

  13. Hello friend…

    Just want to let you know that I am thinking about you and praying for you this morning. I just read this post and I hurt with you… I know that our life circumstances are SOOO very different with you struggling not having any children and me struggling each day with having so many children!! But I want to work so hard not to let our differences hinder our friendship…and I also want you to know that if I was in your shoes I know that I would feel the same way you do and I would grieve just as strongly. And I know that it takes supernatural faith to take that intense disappointment and grief and pour it out to the Lord, trusting His love for you and his sovereignty over difficult circumstances… and I really respect your great faith to not harden your heart towards the Lord and to keep walking in fellowship with Him. Yes, I believe your pain is very real and much harder to deal with than the normal trials of marriage and parenthood. Yet there is great peace and rest in the understanding that this world is not all there is… and that all the disappointments and pains of life will melt away in that heavenly instant that He will wipe away every tear and there will be no mourning or grieving (Rev. 24:1) I pray God will give you an eternal perspective today and that it will bring you great hope for your future! And that despite the lack of a earthly home filled with family that you hope for (for now – because I still have hope that He may yet surprise you here on earth with that blessing), you will look forward with great anticipation and hope towards the heavenly home Jesus is preparing for you!

    John 14:1-4 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am…”

    I love you KT!

    Blessings in Jesus,


  14. Thank you for your perspective and understanding, Kate…it is nice to know that someone truly understands the struggles that other Christian singles are going through. This summer just as I turned 42 (and still single), one of my closest male high school friends moved back to town, From the beginning I told him we could not date because we don’t believe the same Savior. As we’ve spent more and more time together and talked about our dreams, hopes, fears, our attraction to each other has grown. We will always be friends and I believe that if the Lord wants us together, it will happen in His timing, not ours. But it is difficult right now because every few weeks we have the same conversation about why I can’t be his wife, about why I believe the Bible is true and why I believe that Jesus is my Savior. He tells me that while he believes in God, he believes that Jesus is a good man, but not the Son of God. He doesn’t understand why having the same beliefs should matter in a marriage and thinks I’m using “religion” as an excuse to stay single. He has said that he will be committed to me, love me, respect me and take care of me no matter what either of us believe, (and I know he would, his love is demonstrated and backed up by his actions)…all things that a woman longs to hear and see from the man she loves! It breaks my heart to have to say no to him when really want to shout “YES!” I have to accept the fact that I may lose the only man who will love me enough to want to marry me…the only man that I may ever love enough to want to marry! It hurts, it’s painful and I need to grieve for what can’t be right now (or possible ever).
    I do know that God has a plan, even in all of my pain and tears, he has always worked things out for the best for me in the past-he has not ever failed me before and I know that he will not fail me now… but I do need to have the time to be sad over what can’t be.

  15. Reblogged this on All Things are Yours and commented:
    Note from Heather: There are taboos in Christian culture – one of those taboos is for a single Christian female to share her pain about being single, as it gets her labeled as the dreaded “desperate” a label that all singles avoid like the plague. Why is that? The other taboo is to speak openly of wanting to find a mate to various folks, as it is considered to be something that pastors and layfolks alike are not to be involved in: it’s something you’re supposed to silently “trust God” to bring you one day, and if that fails, take responsibility for yourself and go sign up for some internet dating site.

    So this post from Kate Hurley’s blog is posted with courage on her part, and on my part in reposting it, I cry: let’s destroy these taboos! While some single people are happy that way, not all of them are – and their grief should not be looked at with derision and shame! And, by all means, let’s find this gal some guys that might want to date her – if you know them, send them her blog. That’s the sort of thing that COMMUNITY is all about – and how courting used to work and still does work in religious communities – such as Jewish communities and muslim communities and lots of other communities – in times past. And if you found a spouse for Kate, that’s great – but I know dozens more single sisters, that are also eager to find someone.

  16. Pingback: Contentment while grieving | This Thing Called Life

  17. As a single woman who has adopted, I have a few thoughts:

    I’ve found that it’s easier for me to be single now than it was before i had my daughter. I live by myself in a foreign country so i am usually more isolated than most, but it still helps me tremendously to have family. The hard part is talking with my daughter about why she doesn’t have a dad, or when she prays for a dad and tells me, “But you have to be looking, mom!”.

    I’ve also found it’s not so much about me having a daughter as it is about my daughter, who used to call herself unwanted, having a family and experiencing love for the first time. Honestly, i would hesitate to adopt in order to fill a craving, because all of that expectation could so easily be dumped onto that precious child’s head, like Kate said about dumping expectations into a relationship. My daughter isn’t here to make me a mother; she is here to be loved and for us to love each other. I often think of us as two misfits becoming family. 🙂

  18. Thank you for this post, Kate. It really, really needs to be said. I’ve forwarded this post to quite a few single friends.

    A lot of grieving singles out there. 😦 But it seems that more and more bloggers, like yourself, are speaking up.

    Btw, I just bought your latest album from iTunes (praise God for iTunes!) What beautiful songs, the love of the Lover for His beloved (Israel, the world … you and me). Sitting on a commuter train going into London this morning, listening to the lovely first track, with its beautiful, plaintive chorus ‘Return to me’, lifted my spirits and soothed my soul. You have a great voice, and are very gifted musically. God is obviously using your gift!

    – Philippa, a 51 year old singleton from the UK

  19. I read your blog often and I had not read in a bit and stumbled on this post today. I truly needed to hear this. Thank you for sharing. I really took a lot away from this. Especially about putting all we want on another person. It is so easy to think “this could be the one” only to sabotage before anything even starts. Thank you for sharing as it is something I deal with and seeing this really helped comfort my heart.

  20. I’m 36, single, and I haven’t been on a date in decades. A lot of well intentioned people do their best to try to play matchmaker. The fact is, I’m not grieving. There are times that I miss, that I wonder, but I have accepted who I am. I am and always will be single. I have chosen this way and God has graced me with the ability to live this life. All too often, our culture looks on those who are single as incomplete. They just haven’t found the right person yet. They are still waiting for “God’s will” to come along. Throughout history, and in scripture, choosing to forsake marriage for a higher calling has been a noble and honored call.
    I know that not everyone who is single is in the same situation. I recognize that most aren’t. But I wonder if that has more to do with a culture that looks down on being single. It is an honorable calling. Some are born into it. Some are pushed into it by the circumstances of life. But all should use it, whether for a season or a lifetime, for the glory of God.

    • If one is called to be single, then yes, it’s an honorable calling. But I don’t think it’s right to assume someone is “called” to be single simply by virtue of the fact that they ARE single. I also don’t think it’s just the culture making singles want to be married. The desire to have a partner and to have children is in some large part, biological. We are designed for human contact, for sexual intimacy, and for procreation. It’s OK to not want this, but I think it’s important to realize that not wanting that is the exception, not the other way around. And it’s ok to be exceptional, but please don’t paint the “norm” as somehow brainwashed by the culture to want something they shouldn’t want nor need.

  21. kate, thank you for your openness. i recently got your book and have been encouraged by it. i also have been in a season of disenfranchised grief/ambigious loss (i have found the devotionals in content but not satisfied where he explores these ideas as well incredibly helpful) and it is a hard balance – wanting to give myself the permission to really feel and walk through it rather than push it away while not getting completely lost and self-focused that i lose sight of all else. my friends don’t get it…their life circumstances are very different and while they try to empathize, i feel like they are either wistful about my singleness, think it sounds like so much fun to date (not that this actually very often, and the process of dating lost its luster at least a decade or so ago!), offer platitudes that i realize are well intentioned but fall quite flat (and kind of tick me off:)), or approach me with something that feels a lot more like pity than empathy. anyway…it is so helpful to know that one is not alone in the overwhelming and heartbroken moments. i also contemplate adopting on my own and have such mixed emotions, and for me time is more of the essence as i have already entered into my 40s. i would be interested in hearing more about your thoughts and how you are processing all of that. hope you have experienced some healing and peace in the time since you wrote this post.

    • Thank you for these kind thoughts. I’m sorry you’re going through so much as a single. It is such a hard road to walk. People don’t get how much it sucks to date! I am so sick of going on dates with guys that are so far from what I want….not Christians, boring, etc. I am so over it. I just want to find my husband and be done with it. But I have to admit to myself it might not happen. I still think about adopting too and get pretty terrified of doing it alone. I also know I will never get there if I don’t make some steps though so I am wanting to call some Christian adoption agencies and see what they say about singles adopting, missionaries adopting, etc. Being over 40 doesn’t mean you’re too old! Grandparents raise their kids all the time and they are older than us!

  22. I just found your blog so I’m late to the party. You have, in several of your posts, very eloquently stated things I have tried to express to my friends and family. I’ve even written a few of them into blogs posts, just for my own consumption :-). I honestly have grieved over my childlessness. I have trouble expressing to married women that I want a baby just as much as they do and can’t even turn to my husband for comfort. It’s a soul deep wound that I can only really share with God because it’s just not “acceptable”. Thank you for putting words to my thoughts.

  23. I know this is a late reply but here goes anyway:
    “I think what we need to learn is that we should let ourselves mourn deeply, we should acknowledge our disenfranchised loss, but we need to direct that mourning at God, not on anyone else, including ourselves. God can take it. Another human being can’t. We can’t.”

    Absolutely and totally!

    Not that there is never a time to share about struggles with others, but in the end, only He is able to hold our grief fully. Others can pray and listen and empathize. But they can’t heal us.

    Yes, it sucks to be single a lot of times. It sucks to hold precious babies in the nursery when my heart is aching for one, only to hand them back to their parents after the service and walk away to my aloneness again. It sucks to grow older and see my dreams for a large family slip away because my years for fertility are slipping too. It sucks to be the “single aunt” for all my siblings’ kids, as much as I adore them to pieces, and be the one sitting solo at the restaurant when everyone else is holding hands with their spouse for family outings. It sucks to deal ALONE with all my car stuff, all my insurance stuff, all my grocery shopping, all my church attendance, all my future planning and decisions. It sucks to be in a car accident because of someone else’s bad driving and not have anyone committed to me for life for me to call and burst into tears on the phone over my car being damaged and me being traumatized, because I have to deal with this, I can’t let loose and be human. Yes, I have wonderful friends, I praise God for them, yes I have a great family, I praise God for them, yes I have a good church, I praise God for them. But in the end I get in my car by myself and go back alone. I call and file a claim alone. I pay my bills alone. I pick up food at the grocery store and take care of my car alone. I wonder over my future and taking care of myself and my parents alone.
    God is with me, God loves me, God provides for and protects me. My friends hang put with me, my friends love me, my friends provide community for me. But I’m still physically alone. All the time. And that sucks sometimes. It just does.

  24. I hope you come to resolution on this. but here is the thing what if your whole family was killed. God will comfort you. but me ive lived w disappointment my whole life. I understand its harder when EVERYONE around u is sucessful but u are struggling. but I HAVE to believe theres more to life then my family..well mainly because I dont have one. I know its hard to fathom but everyone due to sin or Gods plan isnt going to get everything on this side of eternity. I was mad about shat was stolen from me so now instead of feeling sorry what what I lack or missed out. I celebrate those who do have it. I mean celebrate, if you are the bride help the bride out, marriage is still difficult. so instead of mourning continually like I used to do, I seek to be a blessing to those God has chosen to bless. you never know what may happen when you do.

  25. Pingback: The 35-year-old’s “just in time” marriage | All Things are Yours

  26. Pingback: The three big elephants in the Christian dating and marriage room | Christianity and the manosphere

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